Flourless Chocolate Cake

I have friends, and sometimes guests, with various food allergies. So I’m always on the lookout for good alternative recipes. Here’s a great chocolate cake for those who need to avoid wheat.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

1 stick plus 2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup sugar
1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons coffee
4 eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
powdered sugar for dusting

Grease 6 half-cup ramekins with the 2 tablespoons butter and sprinkle the inside of each one with 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Place ramekins in a 9×13 baking dish.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the chocolate chips, stick of butter, and coffee. Microwave for 90 seconds and then stir until smooth and creamy.

In a mixer combine the eggs, remaining  sugar, vanilla, and salt. Mix until frothy and almost doubled in volume, about 5 minutes. Fold 1/3 of this mixture into the chocolate. Repeat 2 more times, until all the egg mixture has been folded into the chocolate.

Portion the batter into the 6 ramekins. Add enough water to the pan to come up halfway on the sides of the ramekins. Bake about 20 minutes. The edges will just be setting and the cake will have risen slightly. Cool slightly and the loosen the edges with a dull knife. Invert each cake onto a plate and then flip back over so the top is facing upwards. Cover and refrigerate.

Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

German Pancakes

If you are looking for a way to wow your family for a fun breakfast, this recipe for German Pancakes is just the thing.

2 tblsp. melted butter
6 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
½ tsp. salt

Coat a large oven proof  frying pan or a 9×13 baking pan with the melted butter. (If you prefer, you can use 6-8 small ovenproof dishes to make individual serving-size pancakes.)

Combine the remaining ingredients, whisking hard until frothy or using a blender. Pour batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake at 400 for about 20 min., until puffy.

For toppings, you may want to saute sliced apples or peaches (fresh or frozen) with cinnamon and butter, or use sliced fresh strawberries. Whipped cream adds a fancy touch. The pancakes are also delicious served simply with warm maple syrup.

Let me know how these turn out and what toppings your family likes.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I just took a batch of chocolate chip cookies out of the oven. Would you like one? Here at the Inn we have homemade cookies every day. I use the Nestle’s Toll House recipe right off the bag. I make up the dough on Monday and keep it in the refrigerator. Every afternoon, right before our guests arrive, I scoop out a few cookies and bake them. Fresh baked cookies make the whole Inn smell great, and most people find them irresistible.

Before we bought the Inn, I would make a batch of dough, scoop the cookies into balls, and freeze them. Then after a busy day, I could still make freshly baked homemade cookies for my family. I know these days you can buy frozen hunks of cookie dough and do pretty much the same thing with even less work. But why not try making your own frozen cookie dough balls? It really takes very little time, and they’re tastier–and more economical–than the premade ones.

And don’t forget you’re always welcome to join us for freshly baked cookies here at the Inn. We still have a few rooms left for this weekend!

Lime Salmon

The weekend is coming to an end, and maybe you are thinking about dinner plans for the week ahead. Here is an easy, healthy dinner recipe. The first time I made this recipe for a private dinner party, it got rave reviews. Sometimes simple can be as wonderful as a meal that takes hours to prepare.

Lime Salmon

salmon filets
salt and pepper
4 tblsp. butter
one lime

Season filets with salt and pepper. Melt butter and add the juice of the lime along with the zest. Grill or sautee the salmon on one side and then turn over and brush with the lime butter. Once the salmon is done, brush with more lime butter.

Very easy and so tasty. Serve with some steamed vegetables and a maybe a baked sweet potato and a salad, and dinner is ready!

Sausage Gravy and Heart Shaped Biscuits

The weekend is coming! Time to start planning some romantic surprises. I know weekends can easily be swallowed up with errands and projects, but try to add an extra hour in the morning to relax and spend some quiet time with your sweetie. You won’t miss that hour later in the day. Maybe serve breakfast in bed—or if that’s too ambitious, how about a cup of coffee or tea?

Even though Valentine’s Day has passed, heart-shaped biscuits and gravy make a romantic breakfast any time. Here’s my favorite recipe for Sausage Gravy. Make your own biscuits either from scratch or from a mix, and cut them out with a heart-shaped cookie cutter—or just use the ones that come in a can. (You can still cut them into heart shapes!)

Sausage Gravy

½ lb. breakfast sausage
1/2 stick margarine
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk
¼ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
¼ tsp. onion powder
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
good dash of Tabasco

Brown sausage and cook until crumbly. Drain and set aside.

Melt margarine and add flour. Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Cook on medium until the gravy thickens.

Add the sausage and serve over warm biscuits.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Do you love chocolate dipped strawberries? They’re incredibly easy to make, and you can surprise your loved ones with a treat that will make them feel very special. If you have small children they may want to help.

Combine 1 cup (6 oz.) chocolate chips (I like to use dark chocolate) with 1 tablespoon of solid shortening, like Crisco, in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for one minute, then stir until smooth. If the chips aren’t quite melted, heat the mixture for an additional 15 seconds at a time. Dip clean, dry strawberries in the chocolate and lay them on a sheet of wax paper until set. If you’re in a hurry, you can put them in the refrigerator to help them set faster.

You can dip other things besides strawberries, too–like pretzels, cookies, or other kinds of fruit. Be creative. And be sure to let me know how it turns out!

Spinach Hash

Today I thought I would share a Rachel Ray recipe that has become a favorite of my guests. It is beautiful, good for you , easy, and very tasty. Even my husband will eat spinach this way! Try it for a quick breakfast or a super supper.

Spinach Hash

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
4 tablespoons butter, divided
8 small red potatoes
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 large ham steak, finely chopped
4 extra-large eggs
2 cups baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped (or one 10-oz. package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and wrung dry in a kitchen towel)
10 leaves fresh basil, chopped or torn (or a few rounded spoonfuls of prepared store-bought pesto)
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, a couple of generous handfuls

Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat with 2 turns of the pan of extra-virgin olive oil, about 2 tablespoons, and 2 tablespoons of butter. While the pan is getting hot and the butter is melting, cut the potatoes in half and then thinly slice them, add to the hot skillet and season with salt, pepper, thyme, and the crushed red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring every now and then, for about 10 minutes, or until potatoes have browned and are tender. Add the onion and the ham and continue to cook for 3 to 4 minutes.

Preheat another skillet over medium high heat with 2 tablespoons of butter. Once the butter has melted and the bubbles have subsided, crack eggs into the pan, season with salt and pepper, and fry to desired doneness.

While the eggs are frying, finish off the hash by adding the spinach and basil (or pesto) to the potatoes. Toss to wilt and warm the spinach. Sprinkle the hash with tomatoes and cheese and remove from the heat. Transfer the ham and spinach hash to plates. Top each portion with a single fried egg or arrange the fried eggs evenly over the platter.

Fresh Baked Cinnamon Rolls

One of my favorite treats to make for guests is fresh baked cinnamon rolls. I found a good recipe years ago and have been making it ever since. Recently I came across a slightly different version and thought about trying it. You know how I love to try new recipes! But when I mentioned it to my son, he said, “Mom, why bother? Your cinnamon rolls are already the best.”

A nice thing about this recipe is that it’s very versatile. Making the rolls from start to finish takes about three hours, including rising time. But you can let the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator, either before or after shaping the rolls, to save time in the morning. It’s a great way to greet your family with fresh, hot cinnamon rolls without having to get up too early. It’s also great for company, since you can do some of the work ahead of time. I hope you’ll give these cinnamon rolls a try—or come visit us at the Inn, and I’ll make them for you!

Cinnamon Rolls
Makes 12

1 pkg. yeast
3 tblsp. sugar, divided
1/2 cup warm water
2 tblsp. butter, melted
½ cup milk
pinch of salt
1 egg
3–3¼ cups flour

Filling
1½ tblsp. melted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

Glaze
1¼ cup powdered sugar
2 tblsp. melted butter
2 tblsp. milk

Proof yeast with 1 tblsp. of sugar in ½ cup of warm water for 5 minutes. Combine melted butter, milk, salt, and remaining 2 tblsp. sugar in a saucepan and heat until lukewarm. Stir into yeast mixture along with the egg and 3 cups of flour. Knead in remaining flour as necessary.

Let rise 45 min. to 1 hour in a warm place (or overnight in the refrigerator).

Roll dough into a 9×12 rectangle. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Roll up dough and cut into 12 slices. Place cut side up in a greased 9×13 pan and let rise 1 hour in a warm place (or overnight in the refrigerator).

Bake at 400° for 16–18 min. Combine glaze ingredients and drizzle over warm

The Life of a Busy Innkeeper

To be an innkeeper is to be busy most of the time. This weekend is especially busy, since it’s Valentine’s Day and a three-day weekend for many people. The inn is almost full. We have a few couples who are celebrating birthdays along with Valentine’s Day. We have another couple who are traveling across the country from New Hampshire to Denver and needed a place to stay along the way. We have a few local couples who are tired of winter and just needed a place to relax and rejuvenate. Then we have a couple from Chicago who decided at the last minute to come to South Bend for a weekend escape and to visit the museums. All of our guests are enjoying homemade chocolate chip cookies, heart-shaped sugar cookies, and in-room fireplaces and jacuzzis.

We try to make the Oliver Inn a respite in a world of craziness. This morning I’m serving Stuffed Grilled Panini French Toast with fresh strawberries, along with grilled ham slices, almond poppy seed bread, and the chocolate chip coffee cake recipe I shared earlier this week. We will also have a variety of fresh fruit and juices.

We have a private tea party here at noon, and then beginning at 3:00, 18 more guests will arrive and we start all over, welcoming both new and old friends.

Here is my recipe for Stuffed Panini French Toast.

1 loaf (about 1 lb.) egg braid (or any good French bread)
cream cheese
8 large eggs
2 cups half and half
1 cup milk
2 tblsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
dash of salt

Slice the bread, not too thick or thin. Soften the cream cheese and spread a small amount on half the bread slices, then top each with another slice (as if you were making a sandwich).

Mix together remaining ingredients.

Preheat a grill pan or a panini pan and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Soak each “sandwich” in the batter, then grill both sides until golden. Place grilled sandwiches on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 min. to finish cooking.